Bread, Olive Oil, and Life Lessons: San Leo

I have realized that my favorite place on earth is Residenza San Leo in Figline Valdarno, 1 hour southeast of Florence. Yes, I know, you’ve already heard me gush on and on about this place. I just need to make sure everyone really knows how strongly I feel about the atmosphere (and more importantly, the bread).

So, Colleen, Susan, Jessica, and I rented a car, and yet again headed down to San Leo for the weekend. Little did I know that I would be returning with $10,000 worth of the best olive oil I have ever tasted in our life, a renewed sense of self, and muddy pig boots.

This “life changing” thing tended to be the theme of the trip, if you can’t tell already.

So, we got lost.

Which is normal.

But, we ran into this absolutely gorgeous building covered with pink leaves.

We were just stunned by their beauty.

So, naturally, I just kept taking pictures.

And taking pictures WITH them.

And finally, after we arrived without a map (yet again), we were greeted by Patrizia (the kind owner) and this incredible fire. We were going to be taking part in an olive oil tasting with an actual olive oil taster.

Like, people do that for a living here.

So I snuggled up as close as possible to the fire (without burning my eyebrows off) and awaited the magical flavors that would befall me. But not before enjoying the incredible architecture of the extremely old stone building we were inside.

I’m thinking it would only be fair to model my baking kitchen after this.

The olive oil tester, above, is actually a consultant of San Leo, where the olive oil is produced. She works with Patrizia to help them achieve the best possible quality, flavor, and appearance. After their collaboration and pressing, the olive oil is packaged, taken to competitions, and sold.

And, my friends,

This is the best olive oil I have ever had in my life.

No disputes.

This will not change.


That’s why I personally spent 66 Euros on olive oil.

And I’m not finished.

We were able to sample three different selections from San Leo. The 2010, two years old: The 2011, last years harvest: and the 2012, which was harvested THE DAY before. The 2010 was first and had a bit of a yellow-green hint. Because of the high quality of the oil there, the 2 year olive oil was still perfectly good for eating and had a bit of a bitter note to it. The 2011, my personal favorite has a bit of an almond smell to it and is slightly more green than the 2010. The tang is a bit mild, but the spiciness of the olives is still subtlety present. The 2012, which is also impeccable is completely green, with the scent of the forest. It has a very spicy taste and is perfect in pasta, bread, or as a shot.

To “professionally” sample the olive oil, we were instructed to cover the cup with our hands and move it around on our palms to produce friction so that the oils would fumigate and “warm up” before we sampled. The taster than showed us how to properly “slurp” the olive oil as to sound like a strange forest bird.

Apparently this introduces the olive oil to your taste buds in an ideal type of way.

Personally, I prefer drizzling it on bread and salting it to “introduce it to my taste buds.”

But, we all have our ways, maybe professional olive oil tasting just is not in my future career path.

Then, we were all completely humiliates when we were given a sample of a basic store bought olive oil to smell.

Awful. I couldn’t believe that I had ever put that into my body.

I think we all were a bit offended by ourselves. We were living in denial.

I’m now an olive oil prude and proud of it.

I hope import fees aren’t that expensive. Maybe they have a frequent flyer import card?

Then, after we were finished sampling, we headed over to enjoy a lunch that would be unforgettable.

But first, we were casually greeted by gorgeous ripe peppers

and colorful eggplants.

And then, we ate.

A delicious green polenta

Homeade bread with olive oil (hehehe)

Pappa Pomodora, a traditional Tuscan thick tomato soup with bread and herbs inside.

This is the “Soup that has no words” soup.

Best soup I have EVER had in my life, yet again.

No words.

I won’t even try.

Chickpeas that were completely out of this world.

Fresh ricotta cheese and homemade honey.

Lemon cream cake with strawberries.

Lemon custard bars.

To describe in detail my feelings about this lunch would be without gain. My response was shock. I sat in the same chair for two hours after my meal, without moving, trying to comprehend what I just put in my body. The food was indescribable.

That’s it. It was just indescribable.

And then we walk out to loaves upon loaves of freshly baked bread.

Like, no big deal.

That’s just the best bread I’ve ever had in my life.


And I realized something, man can’t live by bread alone…because we need olive oil too.

 And Colleen…well she likes it a little too much.

And, did I mention they bake it in there? ->

Let’s have a moment of silence in honor of this bread, please.

I just want some so badly right now. I need to learn. I must learn. I WILL LEARN.


After I was finished with my tantrum, we were shown to our room. This room was located in a different building on the property than the last time we visited San Leo. It was beautifully decorated and yet again..

Had incredible views of the Tuscan countryside.

Like, no big deal.

And then I snuggled up and rested for several hours while trying to mentally take in how attached I have become to this place in just two visits.

But, before I could finish, it was DINNER time!

A super simple, yet absolutely delicious fresh tomato pasta was served.

We were instructed to drizzle the 2012 olive oil on top to maximize the flavor.

We were also served some INCREDIBLE meat that was literally cooked over a fire. The meat comes from their own farm and their OWN pigs. Patrizia offered us Salciche, which is seasoned Italian sausage and Pork ribs, which are..well..pork ribs.

But Italian pork ribs are so much better than American pork ribs when served at San Leo.

And Italian sausage is so much better…well I think you catch my drift.

And those phenomenal chickpeas were served to us yet again.

Which I just kept serving to myself and serving to myself and serving to myself, until I was full.

And then, dessert came.

And I wasn’t full anymore.

So I ate this light apple cake and drank homemade tea.

Which really, was the perfect way to end a perfect day.

And then, we were blessed with 8 hours of phenomenal Tuscan sleep, with no noise, no bar screams, and no ambulances.

It was just…..Tuscany.

And then we woke up and well…HAD to eat.

I mean, we were starving! It had been 8 hours since we last consumed a Thanksgiving sized meal.

So we ate more.

And that blackberry tart will be something I will attempt to replicate for my entire life until I get it right.

And after we enjoyed more carbohydrates, we figured that we would take a walk, to prepare us for the next meal.

So, we did, and we met Leo, the kitty-cat mascot who meows every 15 seconds.

And we took a walk to see the geese.

And we saw the pigs, which entertained me for a ridiculously long amount of time.

They just roll around in the dirt.

For fun.

I just don’t understand.

Actually, it kind of sounds like an entertaining life.

This pig was dealing with major hygiene problems.

And this pretty pig tried to sniff me.

And while Colleen and I were having loads of fun, we seemed to forget that we were in a farm…

with pigs…

And we were like…eww.

And then we realized that this was the best day of our lives, so Colleen celebrated by locking herself in some type of pig summoning contraption.

But this realization of wonderfulness didn’t come without Lauren learning a few life lessons about herself. Honestly, this weekend I really needed to learn them. My opinion is loud, I am loud, and sometimes I just need to be respectful and listen. I found myself in a difficult situation this weekend at San Leo with a great friend who I needed to listen to. Instead, I chose to give my opinion.

Which, to my ignorance at the time, was the wrong option.

What have I learned? Well, I’ve learned that I need to be a bit more humble about life. I don’t know all the answers and listening just to critique other’s opinions is not fulfilling or rewarding, it’s just annoying. And actually, having true friends challenge this down-fall of mine is quite freeing. I’m able to see what I really need to work on in life. Honestly, its wonderful to have people who will be honest with you because they care.

And to love others as Christ did, is to listen to their needs, their hopes, their desires, their struggles.

James 1:19 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

Lord, help me to be a light for you, imitating all that you are.  Help me to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. God, give me your grace and your patience. Help me to continue to learn about myself and help my eyes to be open to how I can grow and mature as a woman after your own heart. I pray for your mercy and pray for your strength. You have blessed me more than I can ever know, and more than I could ever begin to understand. Lord, help me to listen to others, so that I can be able to hear you too.

San Leo has truly stolen my heart. Not only have I literally enjoyed the best food of my life, but I have developed a sense of self-realization there, I have relaxed there, and more importantly, I have learned what the real Italy is there.

It’s not big cities and waiting in lines at museums.

It’s this. It’s real life. Real food. Real silence.

San Leo is calling your name. Book a Tuscan vacation by visiting there website

Ciao for now!